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Israel in Exile: The History and Literature of the Sixth Century B.C.E.
Rainer Albertz
Publication Date
November 2003


The period of Israel’s Babylonian exile is one of the most enthralling eras of biblical history. During this time Israel went through its deepest crisis, and the foundation was laid for its most profound renewal. The crisis provoked the creation of a wealth of literary works such as laments, prophetic books, and historical works, all of which Albertz analyzes in detail through the methods of social history, composition criticism, and redaction criticism. In addition, Albertz draws on extrabiblical and archaeological evidence to illuminate the historical and social changes that affected the various exilic groups. Thirty-five years after Peter Ackroyd’s classic Exile and Restoration, Albertz offers a new generation of biblical scholars and students an equally important appraisal of recent scholarship on this period as well as his own innovative and insightful proposals about the social and literary developments that took place and the theological contribution that was made. Includes chronological table, map of the ancient Near East, and passage index.

Rainer Albertz is Professor of Old Testament at the University of Münster, Germany. He is the author of numerous scholarly works, including A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period and Persönliche Frömmigkeit und offizielle Religion (SBL).

“In this masterful analysis of the period of exile, Rainer Albertz offers a valuable gift to all scholars of ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible. His careful historical work allows new insight into the political and social life of Babylonian Jews. Albertz uses this historical context to interpret biblical texts from Second Isaiah, Jeremiah, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Daniel, several of the minor prophets, 1 Esdras, Susanna, Tobit, and Judith. Of particular importance is Albertz’s analysis of exilic genres such as lament, sermons, salvation oracles, and oracles against the nations. Throughout the book, Albertz presents the results of German, British, and American scholarship and moves beyond prior work to his own synthesis. For many English readers, this book may be the most helpful entree into the vast and helpful German scholarship on the exile. This is biblical scholarship’s best work on the exilic period, offering a compelling history of the people and a perceptive reading of the biblical texts that reflect upon the situation and meaning of the exile. On the basis of this historical and literary interpretation, Albertz considers the theologies of exile that arose in ancient Babylon and Judah. His insights into the exilic theology of history and the “separation of powers” that resists imperialization provide the foundation for a vital understanding of exilic thought, a thorough reconsideration of exile’s impact on the entire canon, and a provocative reading of biblical texts.”
—Jon L. Berquist, Chalice Press, author of Judaism in Persia’s Shadow: A Social and Historical Approach

“A long-awaited tour de force, comprehensive in scope, chock full of original insights, fresh readings, and sober, balanced judgments, Israel in Exile represents a significant advance for biblical scholarship. It is an indispensable tool that all students of the exile and its literary legacy will want to own.”
—Saul M. Olyan, Professor of Religious Studies and Judaic Studies, Brown University